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The Ultimate Guide to Commuting into Washington, D.C.

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Ultimate Guide for Commuting Into DC

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Ultimate Guide to Commuting to DC

A big factor in moving to the D.C. area is dealing with the traffic that comes with it. Without proper knowledge, a 15-minute trip can easily turn into 45-minutes of commuting time. Many commuters may prefer using the public transit system but may be unsure of the best practices. Here are the best tips gathered from frequent travelers on having a smooth trip around Washington D.C.

Many people work in the city but live in the surrounding areas. The most popular suburban cities are Silver Spring, Bethesda, Springfield, Arlington, and Alexandria. The key is finding a place that offers more than one route to work, one that has access to roads and public transit and somewhere with sidewalks, and finding the best modes of transportation.

Picking A Mode of Transportation

The first step to saving money while commuting is investing in a comfortable, fuel-efficient car. One of the more popular cars seen in the city is SUV style town cars, such as RAV4s, Nissan Rogues, and Mazda CX-5s. A car that gets at least 26 mpg can save drivers nearly $1,000 a year compared to a car that gets 17 mpg. Many modern cars automatically turn off the engine during long periods of sitting still, which helps save gas and reduces the number of pollutants in the air.


Next, consider taking advantage of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. The requirements on these lanes vary, but I-66, I-270 and Route 50 only require two people in the vehicle. Either way, this can help you get to know co-workers and save gas money in the process. E-Zpass is another option to help skip traffic and all the headaches that come with it.

What is slugging?

Slugging is the original rideshare. Some D.C. residents take avoiding traffic a step further with “slugging.” Slugging is a casual form of carpooling, where people pick up passengers at set locations and then use HOV lanes to get to their destination. Slugging has been a part of D.C. travel for more than 40 years, and it is free. The practice is even supported by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as it helps reduce congestion.

Picking the right Neighborhood

Silver Springs

Silver Spring, Maryland has a suburban feel but a thriving downtown area. There are good restaurants, shopping at Ellsworth Place and art shows. The area is very diverse, so people have the option between authentic Ethiopian, Burmese and Cameroonian cuisines. It is served by the Silver Spring metro station, and trains take about 25 minutes to get into D.C. Driving can take between 20 minutes and 50 minutes.

Looking for an apartment in Silver Springs? Try Fenwick Apartments.


Bethesda, Maryland is more like a mini-version of D.C. This city is located west of Silver Spring, and it has more higher-end homes and dining. The Bethesda station is located on the Red metro line and it can take about 25 minutes, the same time as driving without traffic. However, traffic can add another 40 minutes to the route.

Looking for an apartment in Bethesda? Cambridge Square Apartments.


Springfield is a popular Virginia destination, as it is close to all of the major highways and interchanges. The neighborhood works well for families, and it feeds into the Fairfax County school system which is one of the best in the country. The key to living in Springfield is avoiding what residents call the “Mixing Bowl.”

The Mixing Bowl, formally the Springfield Interchange, is where Interstate 95, 395, and 495 meet. The interchange is located about 10 miles from D.C., and nearly 500,000 vehicles pass by on a daily basis. Springfield residents can avoid this area by taking either Arlington Boulevard or Washington Boulevard into D.C.

Looking for an apartment in Springfield? Springfield Gardens Apartments.


Arlington is just outside of D.C., with only a bridge separating it from the National Mall. This Virginia county has the highest income per capita at an average of $57,000 and if incorporated, it would be the state’s fourth-largest city. Clarendon is one of the more popular neighborhoods, as it has a large number of restaurants in one area. The county also has several historic sites, such as the Arlington National Cemetery and the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum.


The orange, blue and yellow metro lines all reach Arlington. The county is also served by the metro bus and DC Circulator. Driving can take from 25 minutes to 40 minutes. The important roads to avoid are both Interstate 66 and Interstate 395 if possible.

Looking for an apartment in Arlington? Gramercy Apartments.


Alexandria, Virginia is a city with a history just as deep as Washington D.C. as well as a strong sense of community. This area has nearly 4,000 buildings that date back to the 1600s as well as local shops that line the cobblestone streets. While Old Town has the art and antique shops, King Street has the romance with gas lamp lights and open-air cafes.

Driving from Alexandria to D.C. normally takes about 25 minutes. This is easily bumped up to 40 minutes during rush hour. Those who live near the 395 and 495 tend to have the longest commutes. Other options include the metro rail, bus or biking along the various nearby trails to D.C. The Potomac Riverboat Company also introduced a new water taxi service that travels from the Wharf to Alexandria, Georgetown, and National Harbor.

Looking for an apartment in Alexandria? The Encore.


Lexi Carr

Lexi Carr

Writer & Ecommerce Entrepreneur

Lexi is a freelance blogger and a passionate renter. She loves change and relishes her freedom to move all over the world without the constraints of homeownership. When she’s not writing localized content, you can find her singing to her brindle Queensland blue heeler, Bruno.

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